Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green is urgently seeking prayers for rain in his outback diocese where severe drought is killing livestock, seedlings, and “making life unbearable for families”.
The bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes diocese took to social media last week after travelling to meet with stricken farmers. “Please join us in prayer and solidarity as we beg the Lord for rain to bring relief to our soil and to our farmers,” he wrote.
“Sadly the drought is getting worse before it gets better.”
The bishop, who grew up in a farming family in Forbes, is recommending asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the diocese’s patron.
“Let us ask Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Mother of Wilcannia-Forbes to grant us rain and assistance for farmers and properties who are stricken with drought,” he said.
Fr Jordan Perry OP is the parish priest of Blessed Sacrament, Narromine, and administers satellite churches at Trangie and Peat Hill.
He said the drought is an all-consuming topic in the parishes.
“People say they haven’t seen a drought this bad and it’s the constant topic on their minds,” he says.
“It is really terrible, absolutely appalling, and not so evident here in town but it is as soon as you go out of it.
“The great concern is that the forecast looks very bad for months to come. Only this morning a woman at Mass told me that she’d been speaking to one farmer and she’d never seen him cry before but yesterday he did.”
He said the feeling in the parish was that the drought relief announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Trangie last week would be “very little compared with the need”.
“Families can’t see the end of it,” he said.
“Everyone is affected when the costs for farmers keep rising.
“They dams dry up, and they have to pay so much to bring water and animal feed over huge distances to keep things going.
“Some school principals are prepared to reduce school fees, but shop keepers and other local businesses bear the brunt too.”
Trangie parishioners Sheryl and Tony Terry run a mechanical repair business that Sheryl says is now the quietest it’s ever been.
“It affects all of us, the local supermarkets, pubs, tradespeople, when our farming clients don’t have the time or money to spend on things,” she said.
“Farmers are a proud and resilient lot but it is taking a toll especially on the younger farmers who have never experienced anything like this.
“But I think what’s happening now is they are seeing that people in the cities are aware of the problems and do care enough to try to do something, and that gives them some hope.”
Prime Minister’s Turnbull’s aid package for NSW drought-affected farms is worth $190 million, averaging out to approximately $12,000 per farm.
However the PM’s aid package has been criticised as being too little, too late by some in farming communities.